To end the debate surrounding the illegal sale of medicines once and for all, the Indian government is reportedly considering to ban epharmacies from stocking products.indian
According to a report in Hindustan Times, the government is planning to put a clause in the yet-to-come epharmacies regulations, which will make it mandatory for epharmacies to tie with offline pharmacies to source their medicines. With this update, online pharmacies will just act as the local delivery services.
In the previous draft ‘The Drugs And Cosmetics Rules Act’ released in 2018, registered epharmacies were allowed to sell most medicine except narcotics, psychotropic drugs and tranquilisers. However, there was a protest against the same as there were very few ways to verify the prescriptions.
The development comes after a panel of ministers — headed by defence minister Rajnath Singh — started holding a closed-door discussion regarding the regulations for epharmacies. The first meeting was held on October 30 and the panel consisted of commerce minister Piyush Goyal, health minister Harsh Vardhan and jal shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
The meeting was also attended by several senior officials and secretaries from the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), health ministry and department of pharmaceutical. The government reportedly set up this panel after failing to fulfill its promise of rolling out epharmacies guidelines within 100-days of its second term coming into power.
Besides Online pharmacies, even Madras and Delhi High Court (HC) have been waiting for the government to roll out the policy. Both the HCs are currently hearing the petitions filed against epharmacies.
A month after the draft policies of 2018, which allowed epharmacies to run with proper licensing, Madras HC imposed a statewide (Tamil Nadu) ban on online pharmacies. Later, even Delhi HC banned epharmacies in the national capital.
Delhi and Madras HC later lifted the ban temporarily, until the central government could finalise the policies. In February 2019, Delhi HC had also inquired about the guidelines for epharmacies from the central government. In June, the government stated that it was still working on them.
As the government is trying to finalise the epharmacies guidelines, players like NetMeds, 1mg and PharmEasy have been defending themselves in the court, while still supporting the need for regulations. In the last hearing of September 2019 in Delhi HC, 1mg compared epharmacies to “Ramu” the errands guy, who just follows orders and delivers the goods.